The British-Indian Dr Samir Shah is set to join the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) as the new chairman, a move approved by the government of the United Kingdom.
The government announced Samir’s appointment as the BBC head at a time when the independence of the publicly funded broadcaster is under scrutiny, and is facing increased funding pressure. Reportedly, BBC is undergoing ‘challenging times’ and striving to achieve £500 million in savings and cut back its flagship "Newsnight" programme.
In his new role, Samir brings over 40 years of experience as a non-executive director and media executive. He held various positions at the public-funded broadcaster, including head of TV current affairs in 1987 and head of BBC’s political journalism programmes from 1994 to 1998.
According to the BBC, “As chairman of the BBC's board, Dr Shah will be in charge of upholding and protecting the BBC's independence and ensuring the BBC fulfils its mission to inform, educate and entertain. He will also lead negotiations with the government over the future of the licence fee, which is currently £159 but is due to rise in April in line with inflation”
Samir takes over the role from Richard Sharp, who departed in June 2023 amidst controversy around a ‘conflict of interest’ for not fully disclosing his knowledge of former U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s finances.
Beginning his career with London Weekend Television, Samir worked with John Brit and Michael Wills. He purchased Juniper TV from Wills in 1998. Under his leadership, Juniper TV’s programmes were broadcast on leading platforms, including BBC, Channel 4, National Geographic, Discovery, and Netflix.
Samir received an OBE (Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) in 1999 for services to equal opportunities in broadcasting. Additionally, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Television Society in 2002 and was awarded a CBE in 2019 for services to heritage and TV.
On the academic front, Samir, who moved to England in 1960, holds a degree in Geography from the University of Hull and a DPhil degree from St. Catherine’s College, Oxford.
A BBC spokesperson said, “We welcome the announcement that Samir Shah has been selected as the Government's preferred candidate to take up the role of BBC chair and look forward to him joining the board once the formal process has been completed.”
Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said “Dr Shah had a wealth of experience to bring to the position. He has a clear ambition to see the BBC succeed in a rapidly changing media landscape, and I have no doubt he will provide the support and scrutiny that the BBC needs to meet the challenges and opportunities of the future.”
Samir added, “The BBC is, without doubt, one of the greatest contributions we have made to global culture and one of our strongest calling cards on soft power. The BBC has a great place in British life and a unique duty to reach a wide audience right across the country and I will do all I can to ensure it fulfils this in an increasingly competitive market.”